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LtCmdr Chen & PNPC Lt Vance Sheridan - Spook and Shrink


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((Starbase 118 Ops: Outside the Chief Counsellor’s Office))

::Having recently taken care of his annual physical appointment, Chen had taken it upon himself to contact the counselling department and arrange an appointment there, too. Counsellor Sheridan had mentioned something about his schedule being busy, and asked if Chen minded fitting in a little before Alpha shift was due to start. It made sense that there would be heavy traffic after the riots, and Chen didn’t mind accommodating the request one bit. He’d left Greir to sleep a little longer, got himself ready for his shift, and then reported to the counsellor’s office. The time of his appointment had rolled around, but there was no answer to the chime, even after a second try. Deciding that there was a chance there was already an ongoing appointment, Chen gave Counsellor Sheridan the benefit of the doubt. Another ten minutes later, however, and he was starting to wonder whether or not he might have just overslept. He was contemplating contacting him when he caught sight of the teal-collared officer hurrying around the corner. Sheridan staggered to a stop almost as soon as he came into view, bent forward with his hands on his knees while he got his breath back.::

Chen: You OK?

Sheridan: Yeah… sorry… overslept.

::Chen wasn’t entirely sure whether or not the human counsellor was red in the face from exertion or from embarrassment. If he’d had to guess, he would have chosen a little of both.::

Sheridan: Sorry, Commander, this is pretty much the first time in my career. I can’t believe I asked you to show up early and then kept you waiting. If you file a report then I wouldn’t be surprised and I’m prepared to accept responsibility for…

Chen: Woah, woah, woah!! ::He held up his hands, a little nonplussed.:: I didn’t say I was going to file anything. It’s not like you overslept on purpose, is it?

::The counsellor shook his head. Pulling the rug out from under him seemed to have calmed him down.::

Chen: Alright, so let’s just not worry about it, OK? if you’re having to cram appointments into your free time, you’ve probably been working too hard anyway. Let’s just do what we can do before someone shows up for your next appointment.

::He noted the Terran’s dishevelled hair and the thin layer of stubble that coated his face. It looked like he’d literally heard the time and then sprinted out of his quarters, pulling his uniform on along the way.::

Chen: Did you at least get a chance to eat?

::He suspected that the answer to that question would probably be no.::

Sheridan: No.

::Nailed it.::

Sheridan: I literally heard the time and then sprinted out of my quarters. I had to pull my uniform on along the way.

::It looked like Chen’s observational and deductive skills hadn’t been compromised by the early hour of the appointment. If only most situations were this easy to read. It would save a lot of work.::

Chen: Then if you want to grab some food and eat it while we do the appointment I won’t put you on report for that either.

::Vance took in a deep breath, seeming to consider what Chen had said, and then cracked a smile. Chen’s eyes returned it. The most important thing to him was that he took care of his evaluation. Both he and the counsellor had a full shift to take care of after this, and starting the day in a panic wouldn’t do either of them any good.::

::The counsellor keyed in his access code and activated the door mechanism.::

Sheridan: Have you ever considered a career in teal, Sir?

::Chen’s eyebrows lifted and his antennae twisted towards each other. The only person he felt he’d ever supported in that way was Greir, after he’d lost his hearing, and the way things had worked out suggested that he had done at least a passable job. Aside from that, his partner was really the one who knew how to handle their friends’ personal problems.::

Chen: I think I would probably just end up making more work for the other members of the department after a while. I’ll stick to black if it’s all the same.

::He followed Sheridan into the room, finding a seat while the counsellor replicated himself a drink and some breakfast. When offered a drink himself, Chen passed. He’d not long had breakfast himself, and he intended to pick up a cup of something when he got to his office.::

Sheridan: OK, so this is just a basic annual evaluation. It shouldn’t be too strenuous.

::Chen couldn’t remember a counselling appointment that he had considered strenuous. Maybe he’d been lucky with the counsellors he’d seen, but he’d never really developed the aversion to this kind of appointment that some of his colleagues had.::

Chen: I’m glad to hear it. I was hoping it would be pretty routine.

::Vance stuffed part of a maple syrup coated pancake into his mouth and nodded, answering in a slightly muffled voice before swallowing.::

Sheridan: We sfaa wi your pwofai…

::Chen’s eyes narrowed and his antennae tipped forwards as he tried to figure out what the counsellor was trying to say.::

Sheridan: ::Swallowing:: Sorry, we’ll start with your profile. I’m not seeing anything major flagged up on here, but I’d like to take a quick look back through your records to make sure we don’t let anything slip through the cracks.

::Chen waited patiently while the counsellor reviewed the notes on a PADD with one hand and wolfed down his breakfast with the other. More than likely, he would have done it before they met up, had he been awake on time. Watching him for his reaction, the Andorian took note when his eyes opened a little wider and he squinted down at the PADD, seeming to read and re-read one of the sections a couple of times. Finally, he pushed his plate to one side and looked back up.::

Sheridan: OK. ::He shuffled back in his seat, giving Chen his full attention.:: How have you been lately? You recently transferred here from Deep Space 6, right?

::Chen nodded. The counsellor’s tone had changed and there was no doubt he had switched into professional mode, but his bed hair slightly ruined that image.::

Chen: That’s right. Things have been good lately and I’m excited to be here.

Sheridan: This is a promotion for you too. What are you looking forward to most about your new assignment?

::Where did he begin? Chen could feel pride filling his chest again as he thought about it, and that bled through into his answer.::

Chen: Everything. Literally everything. I’ve never worked in a department with so many top of the range resources before, and this has come with a considerable boost to my clearance level, my own staff, the chance to re-establish some of my old contacts… it’s as close to a dream job as you could ever get.

::The counsellor smiled as he heard the enthusiastic response. Clearly there weren’t going to be any issues with motivation or settling in. He made a quick note of Chen’s response before moving to the next item on his agenda.::

Sheridan: It looks like someone made an observation that they were worried about your work-life balance a few years ago. How do you feel things are with that now?

::Chen remembered his work-obsessive days aboard the USS Echo well. He’d worked every hour he could physically stay awake for following an undercover mission on Nelvaer IV, a Romulan-controlled world, and he had nearly driven himself to exhaustion, all in his pursuit of excellence and a promotion to full lieutenant. Ironically, he had only really started to see results after his department head, Commander Cathleen McCrae, had sat him down to point out that his brain needed recovery time. “Officers at breaking point are no use to me,” she had told him, which had initially left him feeling confused and unfairly rebuffed, but had eventually sunk in.::

Chen: I think they’re pretty good, honestly. I transferred here with my fiancé, so every time I finish a shift and he gets home we get to spend time together. We sometimes just chill out, sometimes spend time on the holodeck, maybe do a bit of work around the quarters now and again when it needs it, or occasionally we’ll do separate things with other friends. We’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about our wedding lately. We’re just making some adjustments after the move.

::Talking to Lieutenant Commander Chen was having a very comforting effect on Vance. Listening to him talk so enthusiastically about all the things that were going right in his life and conversing with someone whose routine hadn’t been split in half by the riots was hugely refreshing.::

Sheridan: Well congratulations to you both. So you have something to look forward to when you go home, which is pretty much as much as any of us could really wish for, but are you sticking to standard shifts? Do you anticipate the whole being the chief of a big department thing taking up more of your time?

Chen: I think I can manage it. ::In his experience, counsellors were more likely to believe that particular statement if you could show them that you had, in fact, already been managing it.:: I think I’ve fallen into quite a good routine, work wise. I work my shift, sometimes I might go in maybe an hour early if things are going to be busy during the day, then I come home at the end of the shift. Then I get to spend time with my awesome future husband until the point we both turn in for the night. He’s Laudean, so he needs more sleep than I do, so I take a short rest, then if I need to go take care of a few more things in the lab, or if there’s something else I want to do I get up again, figure everything out, then head back to get the sleep I need. Then we wake up together, and the cycle repeats.

::He scratched an eyebrow as he thought about whether or not that covered all of the bases. He realised it probably didn’t.::

Chen: Obviously if we entered into some kind of emergency scenario, the routine might have to change. Greir, my fiancé, is ex-Starfleet himself. He was a captain right up until we moved here, so he understands the work life balance. He was a counsellor before that.

::Vance grinned. This particular officer was under the thumb, then, as far as counselling appointments and taking advice went.::

Chen: Oh, no. No no. Stop looking like you’re going to set up some kind of hotline to him or something.

::The grin became a full on laugh. Chen was certainly sharp. The idea of contacting his partner to do some home therapy if ever he became a difficult patient was too funny, though.::

Chen: Do not make me order you. Seriously.

::He started chuckling himself.::

Sheridan: To be honest, I think that probably answers one of the other questions I had on my list.

Chen: Oh? What’s that?

::Vance cleared his throat and settled himself down. The next point on his agenda was absolutely no laughing matter whatsoever.::

Sheridan: You’ve had an eventful career, it seems, and there’s reference in your file to you having lost a foot, and then you were fitted with a biosynthetic replacement. I can’t see anything at all in here that documents any regular counselling appointments during the time you were recovering. That’s a pretty traumatic event to have to live through so either you’re exceptionally mentally strong, or the fact you were seeing a counsellor… as in seeing a counsellor at the time meant you were effectively getting care around the clock.

::Chen took in a slow, deep breath and looked down at his right foot. Most of the time now, he barely even thought of it as anything other than his own, he’d grown so used to it. The memories he had of his old one getting crushed in an emergency escape hatch were unpleasant. He didn’t usually feel the need to throw up his guard in counselling appointments, but he made a conscious effort to keep his antennae from moving to hide the unpleasant emotions that his thoughts had stirred up.::

Chen: Greir was absolutely invaluable back then. If not for him, I don’t know how I would have got through it. We’d recently been through a bad patch in our relationship, but everything that happened put things into very clear perspective. We almost lost each other that day. He was in the tunnel, too, and he could easily have drowned. My foot was crushed because I was trying to stop his head from being caught in more of those emergency bulkheads just a little further up the tunnel. ::He paused for a moment, clearing his throat.:: We helped each other through what happened. I think the fact that we were picking up our relationship where we left off, as well as all the help and support that Greir gave me were instrumental in my recovery. He helped me to keep everything so close to my normal life from before. Of course there were two or three things that I had to do differently, but he kept my mind off everything a lot of the time. I think, in situations like that, making sure you keep a hold of your normal life is really important.

::Vance nodded his understanding. Chen’s last sentence sank into him; as usual, a session with one of his patients had provided him with some advice that was frighteningly relevant to his own life. Meanwhile, even though there was no movement in the commander’s antennae, he’d seen some of the colour drain from his face when he’d tackled the subject of his foot.::

Sheridan: Thank you for being so detailed. I think it’s a very healthy thing that you’re able to talk about it. I’m going to go ahead and make a really clear note in the files here that you did receive treatment, so no-one should ask you about it again in the future.

Chen: Thanks.

::He blew out a breath, glad that the matter seemed to be dealt with. Vance put his PADD down on the arm of his chair, about done with everything that he needed to ask.::

Sheridan: So, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about?

::Those antennae quickly picked up and Chen became a beacon of relief.::

Chen: I don’t think so. Nothing that springs to mind.

::Vance rose from his seat and extended a hand in the Andorian’s direction.::

Sheridan: Well in that case, Commander, you’re all clear for duty. And, uh… thanks again for being understanding about me oversleeping and letting me eat and stuff. I really appreciate that. I’ve got a very long day ahead.

::Chen accepted the human’s handshake - that was one thing he had never had a choice about assimilating into his repertoire. It seemed to be just as much a Starfleet tradition now as a human one.::

Chen: No problem, but remember you were grilling me pretty hard about work life balance. There has to be someone who can help you or a way for you to make sure you get a break.

::Vance listened to Chen’s advice and felt it hit home. He knew he was right. He didn’t know if he was going to act on what he was saying, though. Things would fix themselves in the end.::

Sheridan: I am seriously going to replicate you a teal shirt if you’re not careful, Sir, but thanks. I will take that into consideration. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

::Chen looked at Vance through smiling eyes one last time before turning to leave. As counselling sessions went, it hadn’t been so bad. He just hoped that no-one else caught the counsellor oversleeping, and that he would adjust his schedule to make sure he would get enough rest that it wouldn’t happen again.::

TBC

Lieutenant Commander Chen

Chief Intelligence Officer

Starbase 118 Ops

&

PNPC Lieutenant Vance Sheridan

Counsellor

Starbase 118 Ops

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